Anaheim Council Districts 1, 4 and 5 were among the numerous races the Republican Party of Orange County Central Committee took up during its marathon endorsements exercise on Wednesday. Central committee members got it right two out of three times. I mean “right” in the sense that the OC GOP should get out of the business of endorsing in local races in which multiple Republicans are running – even in cases like District 1 where only one Republican candidate (Steve Chavez Lodge) is qualified to hold elected office.
In each case, Chairman Fred Whitaker urged committee members to follow common sense and act in the interests of party unity by not dragging the Republican Party into the bitter, expense campaign fracas taking place in Anaheim – reminding them such a path would only sow division within the party. Committee members followed that advice in District 1, voting to remain neutral among Steve Chavez Lodge, Orland0 Perez and Denise Barnes (whom the mayor has plucked from obscurity to stand as his candidate there.) It’s plain to any reasonable person who watched and listened to these three that only Chavez Lodge possesses the knowledge and experience to serve competently as councilmember for California’s 10th largest city. Neither Perez nor Barnes are remotely qualified for the position. That is not a criticism of them as people or as Republicans, but a fair assessment of whether they should be making policy in a city as large and complex as Anaheim. At candidate forums, they barely get beyond bland talking points when answering questions about serious policy issues. Chavez Lodge is the conservative Republican with the best chance of winning this seat.
Still, within the framework of what is best for the party, this was the proper course.
In District 4, the Endorsements Committee had voted to send Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring’s name to the full Central Committee with no recommendation. Chairman Whitaker reminded the members that the purpose is to elect Republicans and defeat Democrats – and since Kring was the only Republican candidate and her principal opponent is a far-Left Democrat, the party should endorse Kring. Despite self-interested efforts by water-carriers for Mayor Tait, the committee did the obviously right thing and endorsed Kring.
Unfortunately, the committee turned from the path of common sense when it came to District 5, in which there are three Republican candidates: Steve Faessel, Mark Lopez and Sandra Angel. The Endorsements Committee had recommended the full committee remain neutral. Chairman Whitaker exhorted the committee that the right and proper path was to remain neutral, rather than drag the OC GOP into an intramural war that would only engender bitterness and division within the county GOP. Eminently sound and sensible advice, which committee members then ignored.
By way of background, Steve Faessel is a life-long Anaheim resident who has lived in District 5 for more than 40 years. He is a part Planning Commissioner, current city Budget and Finance Committee member, a member of numerous community and charitable organization boards, and has authored three books on Anaheim history. He is a conservative Republican who has always supported the ticket.
Mark Lopez only moved into District 5 barely five months ago from the City of Westminster, where he has been living for the past few years. When he did live in Anaheim, it was in District 4 (where Lucille Kring lives). Lopez registered as a Republican shortly before moving back into Anaheim to run for city council; prior to that he had been a Decline To State for 12 years. During that time, Lopez requested the Democratic Presidential Primary ballot in February 2008. The only reason for a DTS voter to request that ballot was to vote in the Democratic presidential primary; otherwise the Democratic and DTS ballot were identical. He also requested the Democratic regular primary ballot in 2008, and the Democratic Presidential Primary ballot in 2012.
Lopez was also prominently in attendance at the May kick-off event for leftist Democrat Jose F. Moreno’s campaign for Anaheim’s District 3, and at an in-home support event for Moreno in July.
As Woody Allen said, eighty percent of life is just showing up – and that was apparently enough to tip the Central Committee in Lopez’s direction. Steve Faessel had long before scheduled a major campaign fundraiser for that same evening, and no one rose to speak on his behalf. OC Daily learned later that a Central Committee member had previously agreed to advocate for Faessel, but this member didn’t move a muscle when Chairman Whitaker asked if anyone was present to speak on Faessel’s behalf.
Lopez deflected the Democratic voting matter by claiming he’d been a Ron Paul supporter. This writer asked Lopez afterward what reason he could have had for requesting the Democratic Presidential Primary ballot in 2008 other than voting for one of the Democratic presidential candidates? His response: he did it in order to write in Ron Paul’s name.
Why wouldn’t an ardent Ron Paul supporter intent on voting for him for president simply re-register as a Republican so he cast a vote for Paul that would actually be counted? Unfortunately, that question was left unasked – and therefore unanswered.
A committee member asked Lopez about his participating in the Moreno campaign kick-off. Lopez said his purpose was to prevent Democrats from running in District 5 – an explanation very different from the one he gave after OC Daily asked him the same question shortly after he attended that event. At that time, Lopez said progressive Democrat and teacher union activist Ryan Ruelas asked him to come to the event, and that he agreed because he though he might meet some District 5 voters.
Supervisor Shawn Nelson urged committee members to endorse Lopez. He accused Faessel of applying for the OC GOP endorsement for the sole purpose of blocking Lopez. Even if true — so what? Even if a candidate isn’t confident of getting the endorsement, it would be stupid to leave the field to one’s opponent.
Nelson also accused Faessel of taking a cheap shot at the Endorsements Committee the prior week. This writer was at that meeting, and did not hear Faessel say anything of the kind. Indeed, that would have been out of character for the gentlemanly Faessel. Nelson closed by noting Faessel has also endorsed Democrat Jordan Brandman when he ran for city council. That is true, but the number of times the OC GOP has endorsed local candidates guilty of the same sin, it can hardly be considered an automatic disqualification.
However, neither Faessel nor a campaign representative was there to present his case for endorsement, and no Central Committee member pressed Lopez on his responses. Central Committee members yawned and voted to endorse the newly-minted Republican who had just moved into Anaheim over the life-long Republican who had lived there all his life. Although, to be fair, much of the blame for this falls on the Faessel campaign; if a campaign rep had been there to speak up, neutrality would have been the likely result.
This action sets the stage for Howard Ahmanson and the Tait Family Trust to channel tens of thousands of dollars through the Republican Party in the form of “member communications” promoting Lopez and attacking Faessel – which are similar to independent expenditures except they can only target registered Republicans but can be directly coordinated with the endorsed candidates campaign.
Throughout the evening, OC GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker appealed to Central Committee members not to entangle the party in divisive local battles among multiple Republican candidates. It was very sound advice born of decades of experience and plain common sense. Unfortunately, committee members ignored that advice in District 5.